01/26/2004 12:00AM

Island Fashion takes Santa Monica


ARCADIA, Calif. - Island Fashion became the undisputed leader of the Santa Anita female sprinters with her victory in Sunday's $250,000 Santa Monica Handicap.

The win came four weeks after she scored a six-length win in the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes against 3-year-old fillies. Despite her impressive sprint wins, she is unlikely to remain in shorter races. As the winner of the Alabama Stakes over 1 1-4 miles at Saratoga last August, Island Fashion is proven over longer distances and is expected to try such races in coming months.

In the Grade 1 Santa Monica against older fillies and mares, Island Fashion beat a strong field including Sightseek, a top contender for champion older female of 2003; and Got Koko, who finished third in the 2003 Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Island Fashion ($5) finished ran seven furlongs in 1:21.37, finishing three-quarters of a length in front of Buffythecenterfold. Got Koko finished third in the field of six, 3 1-2 lengths in front of Sightseek, the 6-5 favorite.

Ridden by Kent Desormeaux, Island Fashion was fourth early, three lengths behind Princess V. and Buffythecenterfold, who set quick fractions of 21.98 and 44.04 seconds. Island Fashion joined the leaders with a three-wide rally on the turn and was within a length of Buffythecenterfold at the eighth pole. Island Fashion did not take the lead until the final sixteenth.

"I said, 'Let's go get 'em,'" Desormeaux said. "She had to show tremendous guts to win. I asked her for a couple of new gears before she started making up ground."

Buffythecenterfold finished a half-length in front of Got Koko, who was making her first start since the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

"It's not her distance and she still made a great run," said Alex Solis, who rode Got Koko.

The lack of a challenge from Sightseek surprised jockey Jerry Bailey. Sightseek was fifth on the backstretch and never threatened the leaders. She has lost five times at Santa Anita, all in graded stakes.

"Usually you give her the nod and she'll take you right behind the pace," Bailey said. "I'm going to hope that it's the track because there are other places she can run."

Island Fashion has won 5 of 11 starts and $1,262,970 for Jeff Nielsen's Everest Stable. Last year, Island Fashion was trained by Nick Canani and Barclay Tagg before being sent to current trainer Marcelo Polanco in the fall.

The victory was a milestone for Island Fashion, who became the first filly to win the La Brea and Santa Monica at the same meeting.

The races have been respectively run in late December and late January in recent years. Other fillies and mares have won both stakes, but not during the same meeting. Affluent won the 2001 La Brea, did not start in the 2002 Santa Monica a month later, but won the 2003 Santa Monica.

Island Fashion was entered and scratched from the $150,000 El Encino Stakes on Jan. 18. Polanco said she was pointed for the Santa Monica because of the higher purse.